Blanco papers recount Katrina response
Documents sent to Congress show state-federal disconnect
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco says in one document that her biggest mistake was believing FEMA officials.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Thousands of pages of documents released by Louisiana's governor illustrate the disconnect between state and federal officials when Hurricane Katrina hit, with one aide warning that the Bush administration was "working to make us the scapegoats."
The documents include notes of conference calls, e-mails among members of Gov. Kathleen Blanco's administration and state police reports on the deteriorating situation in New Orleans and its surrounding parishes.
Blanco sent them to congressional committees investigating the response to the hurricane, which killed more than 1,300 people in Louisiana and Mississippi when it struck land August 29.
In one document, Blanco says her biggest mistake was believing the promises of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The agency's director, Michael Brown, resigned in September after extensive criticism of the agency's response to the hurricane.
Blanco's handling of the disaster has come under fire as well, and the Friday release of the nearly 100,000 pages of documents was accompanied by a lengthy summary of her administration's preparations for the storm and its response.
"As a whole, these documents demonstrate the dedication and passion of my staff and other state employees as they perform their duties in a time of unprecedented crisis in our state's history," Blanco said in a statement accompanying the records.
As images of desperate New Orleans residents filled television screens after the storm hit and commentators began to question the Bush administration's handling of the disaster, administration supporters began pointing fingers at the state and local governments.
Bob Mann, Blanco's press secretary, wrote to members of Blanco's staff that the governor's fellow Democrats in Washington were trying to "push back" against the criticism.
"Bush's numbers are low, they are getting pummeled by the media for their inept response to Katrina and are actively working to make us the scapegoats," Mann writes in an e-mail.
According to the governor's account, Blanco notified President Bush two days before the storm hit that federal assistance would be needed. And she said she told Bush on August 29, "We need your help. We need everything you've got."
The state sought firefighting support, military vehicles, generators, medical supplies and personnel.
On August 30, after the failures of three levees left most of New Orleans and its surrounding parishes under water, Blanco told Bush that "the situation is extremely grave."
Five days after one request from the governor for federal help, a presidential aide told Blanco in a memo that Bush never got her letter.
The aide told Blanco, "We found it on the governor's Web site, but we need 'an original' for our staff secretary to formally process the requests."
Sunday evening, Blanco's aides told CNN that the governor personally handed the same letter to the president when he visited New Orleans on September 2.
A White House spokeswoman said she was not in a position to comment about what might have happened between the governor and the president that day, but that a number of reviews are under way to determine exactly what happened that week.
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